ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 07/05/2019

Turkey, Istanbul, Crowd, Tram, Istiklal, Road

The Guardian / Outcry as Turkey orders rerun of Istanbul mayoral election

  • Turkish authorities have scrapped the result of a vote for Istanbul mayor that was lost by the candidate backed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The high election board ruled that a fresh Istanbul mayoral contest must be held on 23 June.
  • The representative of Erdogan’s AK party at the board, Recep Özel, said the decision was based on unsigned results documents from the 31 March poll and the fact that some ballot box officials were not civil servants.
  • The move hit the Turkish lira – which has tumbled more than 10% since a week before the initial election – and drew opposition accusations of “dictatorship“. The Republican People’s party (CHP), which had narrowly won the Istanbul race, spoke of a “treacherous decision” and vowed to fight on.
  • Kati Piri, the European parliament’s Turkey rapporteur, said the decision “ends the credibility of democratic transition of power through elections” in the country.

Washington Post – Carol Morello / Pompeo warns of the dangers of Russian and Chinese activities in the Arctic

  • While the Obama administration viewed the Arctic Council as a venue for talking about the dangers of climate change, the Trump administration has been focusing on the threats to national security.
  • Speaking in Finland at the opening session of the Council, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said member states should not limit their focus to scientific collaboration, cultural matters and “environmental research into events that may or may not occur in 100 years” – an oblique reference to climate change.
  • “We’re entering a new age of strategic engagement in the Arctic,” said Pompeo. In his view, new Arctic sea lanes could become 21st-century versions of the Suez and Panama canals.
  • Pompeo warned that Russia’s territorial ambitions could turn the Arctic into another Ukraine. Meanwhile, he was dismissive towards China, which claims to be a “near-Arctic state” and has observer status in the Arctic Council. However, Pompeo said that entitles it to “exactly nothing.”

Foreign Policy – Stephen M. Walt / If nobody knows your Iran policy, does it even exist?

  • It’s possible that the Trump administration’s drama about Iran is mostly posturing designed to keep the Saudis, Israelis, Gulf states, and wealthy Republican donors like Sheldon Adelson happy. However, if this were the case, there would be little point in exacerbating already strained relations with some long-standing allies by threatening to punish them if they keep buying Iranian oil.
  • A second option is that the US is applying “maximum pressure” to force Tehran back to the negotiating table. But that will not work: even weaker states don’t like giving in to blackmail. Moreover, Iran is unlikely to agree to any sort of deal with the same president who tore up the JCPOA.
  • Instead of a new and better deal, the Trump administration may well be genuinely interested in toppling the Iranian regime. That is also unlikely to succeed and, even if it did, it would hardly be a reliable answer to America’s differences with Iran.
  • Another possibility is that the Trump administration is trying to use maximum pressure to goad Iran into restarting its nuclear program, so as to have an excuse for preventive war. That would be another losing bet by the US in the Middle East, and create perverse incentives, as it would highlight the downsides of being a nonnuclear power.
  • The most likely scenario is that the Trump administration is opting for a “containment-plus” strategy. However, the strategy heightens the risk of war even if it’s not what it intends, and it doesn’t point the way toward any long-term solution to regional instability. Fears about Iran are overblown and, if peace in the Middle East were the US objective, a more evenhanded policy would make sense.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces. 

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